Rap music videos have warped my perception of the world. After years of watching clips like "Big Pimpin'" and "Tip Drill," my thoughts have become infested with half-naked girls who tug around gargantuan asses. It's so bad, it's hard for me to even see a normal lady without imagining what she'd look like doused in the golden showers of a Cristal bottle or picturing myself swiping my Chase ATM card through her cavernous butt crack.
Given my rap-addled condition, you can see why I took an interest in Brian Finke's ongoing photo project, Hip-Hop Honeys (featured in the gallery above). In the project, Brian has been documenting the women who populate rap videos, enabling us all to have another perspective on the girls who gyrate what their mamas gave them for rappers. Brian's work is an elegant look at a genre of film that is simultaneously beautiful and grotesque, liberating and misogynistic, and artistic and exploitative.
As a poor addict of oversexualized hip-hop videos, I reached out to Brian to see if I could just stand in the corner with my hand in my pocket as he photographed his video vixens. The renowned photographer, who's had his work featured in publications like the New Yorker and GQ and has published four stellar photo books, got pretty weirded out by my request. To get me out of his hair, he put me in touch with Face Time Agency, the casting duo who's helped Brian get on the sets of music videos to shoot photos for Hip-Hop Honeys. Face Time Agency was started by Jeff Janvier and Session Cruz two years ago. Since then, it has become one of the only major casting agencies in NYC dedicated to urban models for music videos. And that's pretty awesome for all of the voluptuous ladies and gorgeous women of color out there who are getting neglected by the other big agencies.
Session started out shooting high-quality booty-shake videos for World Star Hip-Hop. While Jeff has been a longtime OG in the casting game. Together, they've brought some of the most beautiful models and biggest butts to the small screen in videos for ass connoisseurs like 2 Chainz, Drake, Kanye, and 50 Cent. I hopped on the phone with Jeff to beg him to let me hang out during one of their video shoots—a plea he flatly declined, afraid I might upset the talent. After that, I figured I might as well do an interview for you guys covering what it's like to make a living off of being surrounded by some of the most attractive women of the world, when all of them are desperately trying to impress you. Here is what Jeff had to say.
Session is on the left and Jeff is on the right.
VICE: When you’re trying to find girls for music videos, what are the key qualities that make them right to shake their butts on the small screen?
Jeff Janvier: The ones that I focus on are the ones that’s make money. It’s all about finding people who have valuable assets. I have a big Rolodex, which is filled with models for every occasion and situation. I concentrate on the features I know I can get a lot of money from.
What makes one model’s assets more valuable than another?
Her sex appeal. Her swag. Her devotion. Those are key elements. Of course they have to be attractive, too. Nobody associated with my company will be even semiattractive. I do have a bunch of girls that I’m nice to and will allow to come to the set and be extras. But as far as the lead and special females, they all have to meet a standard of sex appeal. Sometimes I’m looking for specific things like a particular height or a girl with a big booty. We have a girl for every market.
With the big booties, is there a booty scale? How does one compare and contrast the ass?
No. We only put big-booty girls in the videos that require big-booty girls. But it’s more complex. Like sometimes you need a big butt that knows how to dance, or be really sexy. I know girls who have big butts, but don’t know how to dance. In certain situations, their big butt is useless. It’s the same with just being pretty. Sometimes a nice-looking face isn’t enough for a video that requires the girls to actually do stuff on camera.
How do you keep it all organized? You said you have a Rolodex. Is the Rolodex like “This girl has a big booty, but she’s got two left feet” and “This girl's pretty, but she is shaped like SpongeBob”?
That’s where my mind works miracles. But as far as the Rolodex, I have, like, thousands of girls and I get, like, 30 emails every day from new talent who I can utilize. I organize it according to the videos we’ve shoot. Some girls get upset at me because I can’t utilize them. It gets to the point where I get harassed or event threatened. This job ain’t as easy, but I make it work. If I meet a new girl and I put her on, other females might see that and get upset. Sometimes they will try to hurt the main girl, you know? There are trials and tribulations I have to deal with, but I’ve been doing it for so long, it doesn’t affect me.
What’s one of the most desperate things a girl has done to try to get into a video?
In this industry, I tell the girls, “You think the video world is bad, Hollywood is even worse.” But some people will do just about anything. I don’t deal with females who are willing to do whatever to get in the game. But these girls understand that there can be, like, 20 girls in the video. So, they’ll do more to get that air time in the video, rather than just be an extra in the background.
Are there any girls who get upset with you once they see the video because they didn’t get the exposure they wanted?
Oh yeah, that’s the drama I deal with. I can’t choose everybody. I try my best as a casting director to get everybody that I meet a chance to get in the video. But sometimes I don’t have that much pull. I’m the casting director so I can pick and choose a lot of girls, but unfortunately it is ultimately up to the artist and director to pick who gets that lead role. Some girls get upset when they’re overlooked or not chosen and they try to bring it all out on me. Other people don’t know how to handle situations like that, but I can.
Do you think a girl can make a living off of being in videos?
The video game isn’t like it used to be. Ten years ago, girls could make a living off of videos. They used to get thousands of dollars just for being a video girl. Nowadays, because of the internet and downloading music, the labels don’t put that much money into videos unless it’s a big artist or a big song. Otherwise they try to do it for little to nothing. But if a girl has swag, they can venture out to movies and other options that garner more money. Videos can give you the outlet to establish a brand and do other things with it.
Are there certain ladies who are hard to find? Like, do rappers say to you, “I want an Eskimo girl with a Lisa Simpson face tattoo and a medium-size donkey butt who can twerk while making ice sculptures”?
It’s my job to be able to provide. If I don’t have them, I’m gonna go looking for them. But yeah, there’s always specifics. Some people want Asians in their videos, some people want Russians—it all depends. And I don’t just do hip-hop, I do rock, pop, or anything else you might imagine. So if they want midgets for the video, I have to provide midgets. I don’t just do females either—my core is females—but I do all types of talent. I’ve worked on Sesame Street! I’ll work on anything that cuts a check.
Tell me about the toughest shoot where you had to find a super obscure and specific kind of model.
I would have to say “Birthday Song” with Kanye and 2 Chainz was the craziest. They wanted exotic big-booty girls, but at the same time we had to have clowns and all types of different people like midgets. I had to go above and beyond for that.
Was it hard to get the right midgets? Was Yeezy really particular on what kind of midgets he wanted?
The director was the one really into the midgets. Kanye was more focused on the big-booty girls.
Was Kanye like inspecting the booties on set to get the most robust asses in the video?
Nah. Because I’ve been doing this for so long, a lot of the artists trust me and know that I’m always bringing new faces to the table. They know I have a big arsenal of females they’re able to pick and choose from.
Can you give any advice to young girls out there trying to be video girls? Like, what would you say to a 16-year-old girl who says she wants to be a video girl?
I would tell them to not make it the focal point at that age. She can take it up as a hobby. If you are going to do it, try to take being a video girl to the next level and become a big model or actress, which involves making more money. Being in music videos is for when you’re young and you want to have fun and get your face out there and establish a brand.
What do you think of the whole “video ho” stereotype?
That stems from haters. When I say "hater," I mean girls that were not able to be in the videos started that terminology. Now of course there are girls that act out that stereotype because they do some things. But it all originated from girls who weren’t able to be in the videos who started saying “Oh this girl had to do this and that” to be in the video. But you won't say Halle Berry’s a ho, even though Halle Berry is one of those who had to go above and beyond to get where she’s at? It’s a man’s world so there are a lot of things that aren’t as easy for females as they are for men. Its part of the game and it comes down to whether they want to play it or not.
Would you let your daughter be a video girl?
That’s a hard question—only if I knew her standards and morals were straight would I allow her to get into that. A lot of people don’t have the guidance. They come into this game recklessly and do things they’re not supposed to and fall for certain things because in this game a lot of people talk a good one. You have to realize who’s fake in this industry.
Interested in getting loose in a hip-hop video? Hit up Face Time Agency.
Check out more photo work from Brian Finke.
And follow Wilbert on Twitter: @WilbertLCooper
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